While we’re on the subject of the Inner Temple Garden, here’s one of my favourite parts of it – the Peony Garden. It is home to peonies, obviously, but what I really like about it is its green-ness. There is colour, but it’s quite muted. The magnolia kicks off the show, then the wisteria takes over, followed by peonies, foxgloves, hardy geraniums and clematis.
During the Chelsea Fringe/Open Squares weekend, other Temple gardens were open too. If you get the chance to go, do – it’s fascinating to walk around a part of London that is rarely open to the public. There’s even a tiny shop that sells shirts and pommade. But it’s not all traditional, either – I liked this slightly unruly planting in a raised bed next to a very grand house.
As part of Out of my Shed‘s street party for the Chelsea Fringe, I was asked to judge eight tree pits that had been planted up in the local area. It’s the second time that I’ve been given this job, and it isn’t easy. Any tree pit that is planted up is infinitely prettier than one that isn’t, and who am I to judge one community-minded gardener’s plot against another? This year, I roped in gardener and fellow blogger Colin to help me.
Boy, was Colin a hard taskmaster. I was inclined to take each pit at face value – ie. what it was looking like on that particular day. But Colin’s assessments went much futher than that. He was looking for great structure, appropriate plant associations, good use of colour and more than one season of interest. All from a couple of square feet at the base of a tree!
Luckily Mr Mian’s tree pit looked great on the day AND met most of Colin’s exacting criteria, so we were unanimous in voting it the winner. The scheme was simple – mostly hardy geraniums – but there were also other perennials and lemon balm. The billowy plants were spilling over the pavement and could be seen from several metres away. We saw some other lovely ideas, too – one pit was planted with wildflowers, and another with yellow wallflowers that matched the front door of a house.
All of the ideas for the tree pits were infinitely better than those suggested on a recent Chelsea Fringe edition of Gardeners’ Question Time – Eric Robson suggested planting ground elder. The residents of N4 could show the panel a thing or two.
This is Marcia’s garden, planted up just over a year ago by… me! When Marcia moved in, it consisted of the decking with gravel around the edge, plus a Fatsia japonica, a mahonia and a very large bay tree. Marcia asked for my advice over tea, and I ended up doing a planting plan for her.
In many ways it wasn’t an easy garden to plant up. For a start, Marcia’s budget was around £500. That sound like a lot but it doesn’t go far, even when you’re only filling a few square metres. We saved money by buying plants in the smallest possible size, and for the time being the perennials have outstripped the slower growing shrubs. There was also the orientation of the garden to consider – it’s largely shady (only the border on the right gets a decent amount of sun). There was no budget to alter the layout of the garden, or to do a proper survey of the site, so the gravel was removed and replaced with new topsoil.
Marcia wanted quite a contemporary look, so I dusted down my plant books and got Googling, and after a very long time spent dithering (if I was a full-time garden designer I’d be lucky to earn £1 an hour) I came up with a plan.
The garden has lots of plants with bold foliage such as bergenias, oak-leafed hydrangeas and ferns, and grasses such as Deschampsia and Stipa tenuissima for texture. Hardy geraniums, Japanese anemones and sedums supply the flowers and Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) and Trachelospermum jasminoides (on the sunny wall) provide the scent. I wanted Marcia to have an awareness of the seasons changing, so there’s spring blossom courtesy of a star magnolia and autumn colour from the Vitis on the back wall. Many of the plants should die back quite gracefully and many of the plants are evergreen, so Marcia won’t be looking out on to a sea of hard landscaping in winter.
You’re obviously not seeing it at its best (this pic was taken right at the end of October), plus the plants are still establishing etc etc. But all things considered, I’m pleased with it. And most importantly, so is Marcia.
In case you were thinking I took this pic a couple of months ago and am sneaking it in now, I can assure you that it was taken on the grey and chilly day that was 11 November. I nearly did a double take when I saw it, because a) it’s such an incongruous sight amid office blocks and roaring traffic and b) it seems like autumn never happened. Hardy geraniums, gauras, day lilies and clematis were still flowering their socks off.
It’s called the Christchurch Greyfriars Garden and covers a burial ground on the the site of a church designed by Christopher Wren. Its design matches the layout of the nave: the box-edged beds reflect the original positions of the pews and the clematis- and rose-covered obelisks represent the pillars. It looks romantic, wild and a bit abandoned, and not at all the kind of public space that you generally see in London.
I walked past quite early in the morning, and a girl in last night’s party clothes, looking rather worse for wear, was tidying herself up on a bench – combing her hair, putting on makeup etc.
A few minutes later, I saw her sitting in the reception of the building I was also waiting in. She looked perfectly demure and was discreetly sipping a can of Red Bull.
My current accessories, a Nora Batty-style bandage and a crutch, are not conducive to taking pics for this blog. So it’s time to call in some favours. For the next few posts I’ll be employing some roving reporters to take pics on my behalf.
First up is Danny’s garden, taken by Paul Lindt. Danny is a man of many talents and his garden is a wonder, cleverly designed and laid out with his own fair hands, and packed with plants. Not that an estate agent liked it much, though – when he came round to value the house a while ago he informed Danny that the garden ‘could be very nice’.
Anyway, Danny’s front garden has been shortlisted for a ‘Best Kept Front Garden’ award in Walthamstow, and deservedly so.
Over to Danny…
‘In a blatant attempt to curry favour with the judges, and tick the criteria boxes (attractiveness, creativity, wildlife friendly, choice of plants), my supporting text for my entry read:
“Chock full of year-round interest, subtle colour, texture and some unusual plants. Danny’s front garden rises to the challenge of dry, summertime shade.He’s combined woodland plants like thalictrum, astrantia, tricyrtis, anemones, phlox and hardy geraniums. It’s peppered with self-seeded michaelmas daisies and softened by puffs of deschampsia. The house is clothed in spring-flowering clematis and white wisteria and a headily scented trachelospermum (a surprising success in shade).
Architectural plants include acanthus, phormium and fern while the front door is flanked by a pair of cypress trees. A wall-trained pyracantha has been home to nesting blackbirds again this year, and the soft dry soil provides nesting sites for solitary bees and the ubiquitous ant. And he’s a martyr to the snail.
Come late summer spiders strike up instant webs between tall stems, and autumnal yellow and golden hues suffuse the foliage. Fading to a garden of evergreens and dried seedheads. When spring comes around the garden is soon awash with mauve clematis and wallflowers and tulips, bluebells and alliums until the street trees draw the curtains on the sun for another summer.
It’s not the most manicured of gardens, ‘natural’ you might say, but Danny’s crammed it to the gunnells with lovely plants that vie for the attention of passers-by.”
Let’s hope he wins, eh? I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime if you spot a nice garden on your travels, please take a pic and send it to me via the Contact Me tab!
PS You can see more pics of Danny’s garden here. Well worth a look.
I somehow managed to miss my turning on my walk home yesterday and ended up by the Beatles zebra crossing. Sometimes I quite like crossing it as it’s so iconic, but yesterday there were lots of tourists holding up the traffic and doing silly poses so I crossed the road further up. It meant that I got to walk past this garden, which I first saw in January.
It was pretty impressive then but it looks totally different now. It’s exploded into a haze of purple: perennial wallflowers and hardy geraniums. Bees were buzzing all over it. And I reckon it will look good for a while yet – there are lots of other plants lurking under the wallflowers, ready to do their thing. The residents of the apartment block are very fortunate to have such an amazing entrance.
I went to the RHS Halls in Victoria today for a preview of the London Orchid Show and to hear about what the RHS shows have in store this year. I chatted to Colin Crosbie, Curator at RHS Garden Wisley. He said that plants are an addiction, and he often has to fib to his wife when she spots a new plant in their garden, claiming that it’s been there for ages. My mum does a similar thing with my dad. I guess it’s the horticultural equivalent of someone with a shopping addiction claiming to have had a new pair of shoes for years.
Anyway, after the show I went shopping. I tried on some clothes, hated all of them and found myself in a bit of a bad mood (I hate shopping). And then I spied a street full of cherry trees in bloom, and found myself drawn to it.
The trees led to Ashley Gardens, a Victorian block of flats. Its garden is a cornucopia of shade-loving plants – hellebores, fatsias, camellias, Arum italicum, tree ferns, hardy geraniums and so on – with paths and mystery doorways and different levels. I spent a happy few minutes taking pics – along with someone else (I hope she doesn’t have a rival blog to this one!Q).
When I walked off I realised my spirits had lifted considerably. So I guess I’m with Colin on the addiction front. Oh well – plants are (usually) cheaper than shoes…